If you’ve been trying to lose weight, just starving yourself won’t cut it.
Eventually, you’ll start feeling weak and hungry, so you give up and start eating the same things that made you gain weight in the first place.
If you expect to lose weight and keep it off, you don’t need fad diets—you need to develop healthier eating habits and kick up your metabolism.
Some foods are easy to eat but then sit like a load of lead in your stomach. Others require more effort to eat, and also burn more calories during digestion.
Eating foods rich is fiber and protein like fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains can increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 30%, so adding these foods to your diet can hasten weight loss.
The higher your metabolic rate, the more fat and calories you’re burning. The best way to boost your metabolism is by eating a diet high in protein and low in fat. Research has shown that those who follow a high-protein diet can burn twice as many calories after a meal as those on a high-carb regimen. Here are some foods that can speed up your heart rate or pack a lot of protein into a few calories.
This delicious creamy green fruit is packed with nutrients including 2 grams of protein per half, and those 2 grams contain all 9 essential amino acids as well as omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your heart. Slice and add low-fat cheese plus lots of veggies on a whole wheat roll for a satisfying sandwich at lunchtime. Or fill with a protein-packed tuna salad made with green onions and low-fat mayo.
Low-fat dairy products
The lower-fat types of cheese and milk usually contain more protein than the fattier alternatives. Low-fat cheese can contain 6-7 grams of protein per ounce, while skim milk packs 9-10 per cup. For a low-calorie meat-free sub, start with a spicy low-fat cheese like pepper jack, then pile high with tomatoes, lettuce and peppers. Dress with low-fat olive oil and vinegar. Mix skim milk with low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and ice for a low-calorie smoothie that’s delicious, refreshing and packed with protein.
Toss 2 Tbsp. of almonds or walnuts on a salad or a cup of yogurt and get 4-6 grams of protein. Nuts are much healthier snacks than chips or other fatty treats, so keep a jar or a few packs in your desk.
In addition to being delicious, this veggie packs 4 grams of protein into one cup. Steam and serve with lemon juice for a low-fat side dish that’s high in nutrition.
For meatless dishes that leave you full and satisfied, combine legumes like lentils, black beans or chickpeas with rice. You’ll get 7-9 grams of complete protein per cup. Cook up a big pot of soup or stew on Sunday and have protein-filled lunches all week long. Black beans and saffron rice are great companions for many meat dishes, while red beans and rice are a longtime spicy favorite.
This leafy green is a powerhouse, packing 5 grams of protein into one cup of cooked spinach. Mix with mushrooms and vinaigrette for a nutrient-packed salad or steam with garlic. Spinach is also a great addition to lentil and other soups.
Besides being thick and creamy, this tasty dairy treat packs a whopping 18 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving. Serve it with your favorite fruit or substitute for sour cream in recipes or dips.
Cut back on fat and calories by keeping these around for snack. A half-cup of shelled edamame beans contains 8.5 grams of protein and a bunch of trace minerals including iron, magnesium and zinc. This is another super snack that’s much healthier than chips or cheese curls.
The egg is one of nature’s most perfect foods, with two packing 12 grams of protein. Four egg whites have 14 grams of protein, so either is a great substitute for meat. Add veggies and low-fat cheese for a tasty omelet, or chop boiled eggs with mustard, spices and yogurt for a tangy egg salad.
Fish and shellfish
With 28 grams of protein per 6 ounces, seafood is a great catch. Cold water fish varieties like salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to boost your metabolism by as much as 400 calories a day. Try for 3-5 servings per week, and prepare your seafood in a healthy manner, like grilling or broiling rather than frying. Tuna salad made with low-fat mayo is a healthier choice for sandwiches than fatty luncheon meats.
Another low-fat dairy food that’s loaded with protein, cottage cheese has 14 grams of protein per half cup. Top with mixed fruit for a cool summer salad, or serve with sliced fresh tomatoes, sweet peppers, chopped red onions and crispy lettuce for a quick lunch.
Although they aren’t high in protein, hot peppers like jalapenos, habaneros and Thai chilies can kick up your metabolism by speeding up your heart rate. Consuming a very spicy meal can boost your metabolism by up to 25% for as long as three hours, so it’s a good idea to always have some Sriracha or Tabasco sauce handy to heat up dishes that need a little spice. Peppers can be part of an Asian stir-fry or add zing to homemade chili. No food can be bland or boring if you turn up the temperature with hot peppers!
Don’t think you have to ban all meats from your weight loss program. Lean cuts of beef or poultry can kick up your metabolism because the body burns up energy digesting lean protein. Plus, eating lean protein can help to build and preserve muscle mass, and that’s what burns the calories and fat. Look for skinless chicken breasts and the least fatty cuts of beef.
Like hot peppers, green tea speeds up your heart rate, leading to a higher metabolism. Not only does the caffeine in green tea kickstart your heart, it also frees up stores of fatty acids so they can be burned as fuel. The secret ingredient in green tea is the compound ECGC, which not only spikes metabolism, it tells the brain and nervous system to work faster. Green tea is a great substitute for calorie-filled soft drinks or lattes since it’s loaded with antioxidants.
It’s not that hard to substitute metabolism-boosting foods for those that aren’t so healthy, and to add a few calorie-smart items to your meals. Choosing calorie-burning foods instead of the ones that just turn to fat can make a huge difference in your weight loss program!